Accelerated Reader destroys record

Published 10:08 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emma Tucker, 9, reads a Kindle outside the Washington Daily News building. Emma blasted through the Accelerated Reader record for books read last year at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

She’s a voracious reader. She prefers painting words over the blank slate of her imagination to watching TV every night. Like any true bibliophile, she’ll read the book before she’ll go see the movie of the same title and invariably likes the book more.  Unlike most veteran bibliophiles, however, this one is only nine years old.
Last school year, Emma Tucker became notorious at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School — for being the girl that broke the school’s Accelerated Reading record in a big way. The previous AR point total was 562; Emma’s, 704.
The Accelerated Reader is an assessment tool that monitors not only how much students are reading but how well they are reading it. A given book is assigned a certain number of points based on two criteria: the book’s reading level and the number of words in the book (the average adult-sized novel is between 90,000 and 120,000 words). A formula later and the book’s AR points are decided.
But it doesn’t end there. Once each book is finished, the reader takes a quiz that determines comprehension.  If the reader scores below 60-percent, no points are earned at all.
What Emma’s high scores represent is a true dedication to reading. When she’s not at softball, basketball and soccer practices, or fishing with dad, Dallis Tucker, on the weekends, she’s doing homework. After that, Emma has her Kindle in hand, flipping pages toward the goal to read 100 each night.
“The Kindle has been our saving grace,” said Dallis Tucker. “We see that she’s approaching the end of the book and we press a button and we’ve got the next one. It saves us a trip to Greenville to the bookstore…For us, as parents, the Kindle was an easy choice.”
Emma’s love for the written word is obvious. Her favorite author is J.K. Rowling, though she believes that Rowling should have written 100 books in the Harry Potter series, not just the seven. She gravitates towards books with magical and mythological themes. She’s not a big fan of nonfiction.
“I really like fiction, because I feel like I’m there,” explained Emma.
If Emma wants to see a movie that was based on a book, the Tuckers require Emma read the book before watching the movie — and that’s the proper order it should be done, according to Emma.
“If you watch the movie first, the book’s just not as good,” she said. “There’s no anticipation.”
“She likes the mystery,” added Emma’s older sister, Abbigail.
With Emma flying through books like Harry Potter through an old-school game of quidditch, age-appropriate books are getting harder and harder to come by, said Dallis Tucker.
“We keep an eye on the content to make sure its appropriate,” said Tucker. “Her mom (C.J. Tucker) screens the books, but Emma reads at a tenth-grade level. It’s a good thing she’s moving to John Small (Elementary School). It’s got a bigger library, more content.”
At John Cotten Tayloe, Emma leaves behind a staff and administration that went above and beyond to support Emma’s record-breaking efforts, according to Tucker.
Because teacher Jamie Bradsher and principal Bubs Carson knew Emma was engaged in the reading race to the top, they allowed her to bring her Kindle to school.
“We were very fortunate the administration at the school understood the nature of the beast…what she was reading. She wasn’t using it as a toy,” said Tucker.
Emma is not resting on her AR laurels, though, even if school’s out for the summer. She is currently enrolled in a Summer Enrichment program — a sort of mini-school, with a lot more free time, liberty, opportunity for adventure and, you guessed it, reading.